Geriatric Population Soars While NIH Devotes Modest Resources To Aging ResearchThe New York Times: "With a nudge from the new health care law and pressure from Medicare, hospitals, doctors and nurses are struggling to prepare for explosive growth in the numbers of high-risk elderly patients. More than 40 percent of adult patients in acute care hospital beds are 65 or older. Seventy million Americans will have turned 65 by 2030." This group includes an 85-and-older cohort, which is "the nation's fastest-growing age group." Older patients often have multiple and costly-to-treat chronic illnesses, "and they are apt to require costly hospital readmissions, sometimes as often as 10 times in a single year. The Obama administration is spending $500 million from last year's stimulus package to support the training of doctors and nurses and other health care providers at all levels." Meanwhile, Medicare will penalize hospitals by cutting their Medicare payments, starting in 2012, "if too many patients are readmitted within 30 days after being discharged" (Freudenheim, 6/28).
The New York Times, in a separate story: "The health needs of tens of millions of aging baby boomers threaten to overwhelm the nation's hospitals and caregivers within a decade or two, but the geriatric tidal wave does not appear to have been fully recognized at the National Institutes of Health." N.I.H. "is devoting only about 11 percent of its $31 billion budget to studies directly involving health concerns of the elderly. ... Although there has been moderate growth in spending at all 27 N.I.H. research centers, the growth is slower at the National Institute on Aging. President Obama has proposed adding $1 billion, or 3.2 percent, to the N.I.H. in the 2011 fiscal year; the aging institute's share would rise 2.9 percent" (Freudenheim, 6/28). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.